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I'm a Real Boy
on 11 April 2011
Straight from the off let me tell you that I have no investment in the concept of `Astroboy'. I'm vaguely aware that it is a classic Anime, but my lack of knowledge means that the new CGI version of the film could be as sliced, diced and bastardised as only a Hollywood filmmaker could dream of achieving. With its Day-Glo colour palette and kid friendly look, I thought `Astroboy' was going to be another also-ran from the animated churn factory. However, the feel of the film is anything but kid friendly and instead this movie is average not for being too similar to other films, but for being too different.
`Astroboy' follows the early life of android Astro who was formed in the image of Dr Tenma's dead child. The first part of the film portrays the death of said child and is not easy viewing, although you don't actually see anything. The film has a lot in common with Spielberg's `AI' and is about grief and abandonment. These concepts actually feature more often in animation than you would think, but here they are very dark. There are moments of lightness in the film with some characters included just for comedic value, the Robot fighting for freedom being one. However, the vast majority of the film has a tone that is not in keeping with the brightness of the animation.
Proving a challenging watch is not a criticism in its own right as I believe the best kid's movies have a dark edge (Time Bandits), but here the tone is flat, as well as dark. Nicholas Cage is catatonic at the best of times, but as Dr Tenma he sounds like they have reanimated his corpse for one day of voice recording. The same could be said of Bill Nighy and Freddie Highmore. It is only the likes of Matt Lucas who bring energy to the voice work. The lack of passion in the acting means that the film feels incredibly drab at times, which is a shame as the animation, especially on BluRay, looks fantastic. With its dark tones and interesting ideas `Astroboy' is a curious watch that will be enjoyable for adults looking for something a little odd, but not for the core audience of children.